Saint Alphonsa, F.C.C., (born Anna Muttathupadathu; 19 August 1910 – 28 July 1946) was an Indian religious sister and educator. She was the first woman of Indian origin to be canonised as a saint by the Catholic Church, and the first canonised saint of the Syro-Malabar Catholic Church, an Eastern Catholic Church based in India. Her feast day is observed on July 28th.
St Alphonsa was born as Anna Muttathupadathu in a Syro-Malabar Nasrani family to Cherian Ouseph and Mary Muttathupadathu in Kudamalloor, near Kottayam, on 19 August 1910. She was baptised on 27 August. Alphonsamma, as she was locally known, was born in Arpookara, a village in the princely state of Travancore within Kerala, India. This lies within the Archdiocese of Changanassery.
When it became possible, Anna joined the Franciscan Clarist Congregation, a religious congregation of the Third Order of St. Francis, and through them, completed her schooling.
Anna arrived at the Clarist convent at Bharananganam, Kottayam district, on Pentecost Sunday 1927. She received the postulant’s veil on 2 August 1928 and took the name Alphonsa of the Immaculate Conception in honour of St. Alphonsus Ligouri, whose feast day it was. In May 1929 Sister Alphonsa was assigned to teach at Malayalam High School at Vazhappally. Her foster mother died in 1930. She resumed her studies at Changanacherry while working as a temporary teacher at a school at Vakakkad. On 19 May 1930, Alphonsa entered the novitiate of the congregation at Bharananganam. On 11 August 1931, she completed the novitiate and took her first vows.
The period 1930–1935 was characterised by a grave illness. Sister Alphonsa took her permanent vows on 12 August 1936. Two days later she returned to Bharananganam from Changanacherry. She then taught high school at St. Alphonsa Girl’s High School but was often sick and unable to teach. For most of her years as a Clarist Sister, she endured serious illness. After a series of serious health problems, she died on 28 July 1946, at a young age of 36. She was buried at St. Mary’s Catholic Church, Bharananganam.
Claims of her miraculous intervention began almost immediately upon her death and often involved the children of the convent school where she used to teach. On 2 December 1953, Cardinal Eugène Tisserant inaugurated the diocesan process for her beatification and Alphonsa was declared a Servant of God.
In 1985, Pope John Paul II formally approved a miracle attributed to her intercession and on 9 July she became “Venerable Sister Alphonsa”.
Venerable Sister Alphonsa was beatified along with Father Kuriakose Elias Chavara, T.O.C.D., at Kottayam, on 8 February 1986 by Pope John Paul II during his Apostolic Pilgrimage to India.
Hundreds of miraculous cures are claimed from her intervention, many of them involving straightening of clubbed feet, possibly because of her having lived with deformed feet herself. Two of these cases were submitted to the Congregation for the Causes of Saints as proof of her miraculous intervention. The continuing cures are chronicled in the magazine PassionFlower.
On Sunday, 12 October 2008, Pope Benedict XVI announced her canonization at a ceremony at Saint Peter’s Square. Indians from across the world, especially people from Kerala, gathered at the ceremony in Rome. Among them was a 10-year-old Kerala boy Jinil Joseph whose clubfoot – a birth defect – was, in the judgment of Vatican officials, miraculously healed after prayers to Alphonsa in 1999. Her tomb at St. Mary’s Syro-Malabar Catholic Church, Bharananganam, has become a pilgrimage site as miracles have been reported by some of the faithful.